A guide to the new 40 year old MOT exemption

In September 2017 The Department for Transport (DfT) announced that classic cars more than 40 years old will be exempt from MOT testing from May 2018. This news arrived with a whimper rather than a bang and we have found many of our clients are still unaware of the change.

What do classic car owners need to know about what’s changed?

Most obviously it means that cars built before 1978 will now be MOT exempt. This is a big increase in the number of vehicles on our roads that will not need to be tested. Up until May, when the new rules come into force, only cars built before 1960 are exempt – a total of 197,000 cars. From May, the new rules will mean a further 293,000 classic cars will be free of the yearly test.

Why the change?

The DfT consulted 2217 people and organisations about the proposal and concluded that classic cars are “usually maintained in good condition and used on few occasions” and therefore the MOT requirement was unnecessary. In their consultations and research the DfT also found a substantially lower rate of failure for classic cars than the national average and felt that any safety concerns were covered by the option to carry out a voluntary MOT.

Is this a change for the good?

Overall, we think this change is a good thing. As the vehicle manufacture date for MOT exemption also now corresponds to road tax exemption, life becomes a little easier for classic car owners. We now don’t have to remember to keep the paperwork up to date for cars we don’t often use.

We would also agree that most of the classic cars we see are very well maintained by their owners, who often know far more about their cars than an MOT tester might. One area of concern we have had in the past was in the knowledge of MOT testers about classic car performance. In our experience, not only is the quality of the testing can be inconsistent, but classic cars do not perform like modern cars and the younger MOT testers are not always aware of the differences. A good example is braking – a slightly squashy brake pedal is what many classics left the factory with all those years ago! More seasoned MOT testers give a little leeway on things a less experienced tester might find fault with.

But we do have one concern – because of the recent a change in how restored classic cars can be registered in the UK, The DVLA no longer carry out physical safety assessments on restored cars. Instead it is down to the owner to declare what work has been carried out. This raises a possibility of someone completely rebuilding a car but stating that a vehicle was only lightly restored. The MOT was a safety net and with it removed, there is a real danger that a poorly rebuilt vehicle could be on the road completely untested.

So, our advice to potential purchasers of recently exempted classic vehicles is to have them inspected by a professional restorer familiar with the vehicle before a purchase. For current owners of classic vehicles that are now exempted we would suggest that a yearly safety check by a restoration company or the voluntary MOT test are a minimum requirement.

We will leave the last words to the DfT who wish to remind all pre-1978 classic cars owners that whilst they may be free of the yearly MOT they do still have responsibilities:

The option for owners to submit their vehicles to a voluntary MOT test will remain and they will still, like all vehicle owners, need to ensure that they meet the legal requirement of keeping their vehicle in a roadworthy condition at all times.